In a somber meeting held on Thursday, January 25, 2024, at Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, the National House of Chiefs, alongside the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Minerals Commission, Water Resource Commission, and Forestry Commission, confronted the alarming devastation caused by illegal gold mining, commonly known as “galamsey,” on the country’s forest reserves and river bodies.
During the joint session, a detailed PowerPoint presentation shocked the paramount chiefs as it unveiled the extensive damage inflicted by irresponsible mining practices. The gathering aimed to seek the wisdom and guidance of traditional authorities in the fight against this environmental menace.
Mr. Kwabena Kokofu, the Executive Director of the EPA, acknowledged both the positive and negative impacts of mining on the country. Seeking direction from the chiefs, he highlighted the failure to fully regulate the extraction industry as a significant contributor to the ravages caused by irresponsible mining. Mr. Kokofu expressed the need for collaborative efforts between state institutions and traditional authorities to effectively combat the menace.
The presentation by Ing Ransford Sakyi, Deputy Operations Manager of the EPA, revealed that 14 out of the 16 regions in the country are grappling with illegal mining. The regions include Ashanti, Western, Western North, Eastern, Central, Ahafo, Bono, Bono East, Savannah, Upper West, Upper East, Northern, and Oti regions. Disturbingly, river bodies such as Pra, Offin, Birim, Oda, Offin, and Ankobra have witnessed a loss of their once-colorless nature.
Furthermore, the presentation shed light on the rapid depletion of the country’s forest cover since 2017, with reserves like Sutri and Apamprama facing significant threats.
A representative from the Water Resource Commission highlighted the increased cost of water treatment due to high turbidity levels caused by illegal mining activities. He emphasized that citizens bear the brunt of these elevated treatment costs.
Ing Sakyi, in his presentation, pointed to challenges faced in the fight against illegal mining, including interference by political leaders, traditional authorities, institutional weaknesses, lack of law enforcement, unemployment, corruption, and fluctuating gold prices.
Expressing his dismay, Nana Ogyeahoho Yaw Gyebi, the President of the House, ordered the distribution of copies of the presentation slides among members. He urged chiefs to move beyond the blame game and collectively contribute ideas on how to eradicate the galamsey menace. Among the proposals was the constitutional empowerment of chiefs to summon individuals involved in mining on their lands and their participation in the issuance of mining permits and licenses.